How to do a pre-workout warm up

Many of us know we should warm up prior to exercising, but still it’s often the most neglected part of a workout.  Walk into any gym and you’ll see many people on a treadmill, bicycle or elliptical machine for the minimum five minutes before making their way to the workout floor.  Not necessarily the most effective way to get revved up and ready to challenge yourself.  Warming up should be an integral part of every workout and flow seamlessly into the workout itself.  A proper warm up should be performed in a way that is physically and mentally stimulating in contrast to mindless cardio. This approach will much better prepare us for the workout ahead.  A warm up is best done by using active flexibility and dynamic movement patterns similar to the exercises that will be used during our workout.  Unlike traditional stretching, a dynamic warm up is performed by using opposing muscle groups and/or controlled momentum to take a joint/muscle through the full available range of motion.  This helps improve joint stability, prepares the body for various movements, increases body awareness, increases muscle elasticity, helps raise the body’s core temperature, and helps improve overall workout performance.  Also, a proper warm up will allow you to check in with your body and determine if you are having any potential joint or muscle issues prior to exercise.  This will enable you to make any last minute modifications if necessary, thereby decreasing risk of injury.

A dynamic warm up should take anywhere between 10-15 minutes, leading right into the actual workout.  Warm up exercises can be broken down into two categories, general and specific.  General exercises are performed first, focusing primarily on muscle activation with slower controlled movement.  Specific exercises follow immediately and are higher in intensity by utilizing controlled momentum and with more focus on locomotion.

Outlined below are a few examples of each.  For a see a complete sample warm up, please refer to the included video link.

General Exercises: (Perform 1 set of 10 repetitions)

Floor BridgeLie on your back and position your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent at 90°. Contract your abs and slowly lift your hips off of the ground until you are fully extended. Pause for 2 seconds and slowly lower yourself back to the ground.

Bird Dog:  Begin on all fours with a neutral spine and your abs contracted.  Slowly raise one arm and the opposite leg to body height until each are fully extended.  Hold for two seconds and slowly return both arm and leg to the ground.  Repeat by alternating sides.

Arm Circles: Stand tall with your arms extended at a 3 o’clock/9 o’clock position.  With your palms facing up, swing your arms forward in a circular motion for 10 repetitions and repeat in a backward motion for 10 repetitions.

Specific Exercises: (Perform 1-2 sets x 10-20 yards)

Straight Leg March: Staying tall through your hips and begin marching while simultaneously kicking your leg out in front of you.  Movement should be controlled and just high enough to feel a mild/moderate stretch in the hamstring.  Alternate legs and repeat movement for 10-20 yards.  Keep a neutral spine throughout the movement and avoid rounding your back.

Buttkickers: Brace your abs and jog while actively kicking your heels up towards your glutes, alternating legs and maintaining a tall posture.  Continue the movement for 10-20 yards.

Additional General and Specific Video Examples

  • Plank with shoulder blade retraction/protraction
  • Lunge w/twist
  • Track Stars
  • Exaggerated Walk with hip rotation
  • Carioca
  • Zigzag Hops

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 16 years experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at or